Photo: Susan MullaneIona Loredana Rosca (ROM)
Of all the athletes competing in the tennis event at the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games on 17-24 August, 17-year-old Romanian Ioana Loredana Rosca has a unique advantage – Olympic experience runs in her family.
The world junior No. 16 is the niece of long-distance runner and former marathon world champion Lidia Simon, famed for being the only woman to have competed in the Olympic marathon on five separate occasions.
Simon raced the Olympic marathon at Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000, Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and London 2012, securing a silver medal in Australia in 2000 after finishing in an impressive two hours, 23 minutes and 22 seconds.
And while Rosca is sure to take every opportunity to pick the brains of her famous Aunt ahead of her first Olympic experience, the teenager admits that listening to Simon talk about the Olympics over the years meant she leapt at the chance to compete in Nanjing when the opportunity came around.
“She was always saying [the Olympics] was so amazing that I just wanted to go,” said Rosca. “I didn’t know that there was an Olympic Games for juniors. When my coach said you are going to the Olympic Games in August I was like: ‘no, there is no Olympic Games then’. [When he explained] I was like ‘oh my god’, I will go! I can’t wait to go.”
The Eastern Chinese city of Nanjing, located on the Yangtze River, plays host to the second Youth Olympic Games following the success of the inaugural event in Singapore in 2010. Rosca will be one of 3,800 athletes taking part in one of 26 different sports in a series of spectacular venues.
Rosca has very real medal prospects in Nanjing having won this year’s junior Roland Garros doubles title alongside compatriot Ioana Ducu, who will also join her in China. But while a medal will undoubtedly be the aim, the teenager is hoping to lap up every moment of the experience.
“I hope I can see everything but I think the one I want to see is the athletics,” said Rosca. “I will try to watch all of the sports but going to the athletics will be good.
“My coach says that these athletes can be the next generation of their sport, so I can’t wait to see them and all the sports. I think it’s going to be amazing.”
As with any other Olympics, Nanjing 2014 is sure to be a bonding exercise and Rosca already has an idea of what she might be saying to the athletes that she’ll meet from other sports.
“I think I will tell them that I will try to be Top 10 in tennis and I hope that they can watch me and support me on the TV [in future],” she said with a grin, adding: “And I will do the same for them!”